By Pamela Eapen:
South Africa, for anyone who hasn’t been watching, has been going through one of the most hysterical corruption circuses we’ve seen in a long time. First, there was President Jacob Zuma’s misappropriation of state funds to upgrade his private homestead, Nkandla, and his refusal to adhere to the public protector report, which advised him to pay a portion back to the state. Since then, he’s managed to get his police minister to wriggle him out of having to pay any money back, step on some important ally toes, and watch his country’s sporting reputation crash and burn with the recent revelation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup bribery scandal.
Jacob Zuma has been dancing around the law since he rose to democratic rule – and the past month saw him add parliamentary comedy to his list of cultural talents. Following Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s verdict that Zuma would not have to pay back any of the money he used to upgrade Nkandla (this in direct conflict with public protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela’s official report), his ludicrous suggestions that even more money would be needed for further upgrades, as well as his laughable efforts at justifying the presence of a R3.9m “firepool”, Zuma proceeded to make a mockery of not just the opposition party, but the nation as a whole, in parliament. Ignoring the fact that he had swindled money from taxpayers, he chose instead to mimic and ridicule opposition party members who pronounce “Nkandla” incorrectly. (I will admit, however, that the scene is hilarious. The man has a gift for stand-up.)
Not everyone in the ANC (African National Congress, the ruling party) is in agreement with Zuma, though. The ANC’s Gauteng chairperson, Paul Mashatile, has stated that the ANC as a party does not agree with Nhleko’s report absolving Zuma of returning the money. This contradicts the statement of chief whip Stone Sizani, who had agreed with the police minister over the public protector. Recently, an ad-hoc committee was elected to consider the police minister’s report on Nkandla, despite the fact that opposition party members protested the motion. The committee is expected to bring back their findings in early August – which means we have another controversial report to wait on.
And speaking of reports, we have yet to hear from Zuma with regards to the Marikana massacre, or if anyone will even be held accountable for it. EFF (Economic Freedom Fighter, an opposition party) leader Julius Malema has declared his party’s intention to launch a private prosecution of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa if he was not charged over Marikana.
The pièce de résistance of this prolonged corruption farce has been that of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Following the arrest of FIFA officials by the FBI for wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, it has been revealed that South African officials donated $10m to accounts controlled by Jack Warner, FIFA vice-president at the time, and one of the 14 arrested FIFA officials. This money was supposedly intended to support football development in the Caribbean, but which was later found to have been used by Jack Warner to settle personal financial affairs.
South African Football Association (SAFA) President Danny Jordaan, as well as Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, have vehemently denied that the money was a bribe – prompting hilarity to ensue on Twitter, with the hashtag #denyeverything. However, Tokyo Sexwale, who had been a member of the 2010 FIFA World Cup organising committee, has questioned the lack of documents and paperwork that would prove that the money had indeed been a donation. It does all look terribly fishy, especially when claims surfaced that Morocco, and not South Africa, would have won the bid for the World Cup before it was rigged in South Africa’s favour.
South Africans are a nation of people that generally have a good sense of humour about everything, whether the actual events are funny or not. Even while we took offense to his remarks, we were able to chuckle at the President’s antics in court, as well as his lackeys’ frantic efforts to justify their leader’s chicken kraal expenditure. However, our humour and our patience are both running thin. There are only so many transgressions officials can commit; only so many reports the President can withhold or refute; before the people revolt. We’re told we live in a democracy and that we have a right to be treated as equally as the next citizen, whether that be the man on the street, or the President in his amphitheatre-adorned palace. It’s about time we saw that democracy in action instead of the extravaganza we’ve been being treated to for the past decade.
Now, about that Pistorius fellow who’s getting out of prison early…